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Chelmsford Diocesan
Board of Education

Promoting life in all its fullness through education across Essex and East London

SACRE

Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE)

Within its boundaries, the Diocese of Chelmsford covers the following Local Authorities:

Local Authority: Time SACRE meetings usually take place:
Barking and Dagenham Morning
Essex Daytime
Havering Evening
Newham Evening
Redbridge Evening
Southend on Sea Daytime (afternoon)
Thurrock Evening
Waltham Forest Evening

In each Local Authority there is a SACRE which has on it Church of England representation.

Question 1 a: What is the SACRE?

The SACRE is a statutory body set up in each Local Authority area with a duty to:

  • advise the Local Authority on matters connected with collective worship in community schools and in foundation schools which do not have a religious character. Religious education (RE) in these schools, academies or their equivalents is delivered in accordance with the Locally Agreed Syllabus for RE
  • advise the Local Authority on teaching methods, choice of materials and teacher training in RE and for collective worship
  • consider any application made by a headteacher to release some or all of the pupils of a particular school with no religious character from the requirement for collective worship to be ‘wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character[2]’. This is called a determination and is rarely used.
  • require the Local Authority to review the Locally Agreed Syllabus for RE at least every five years

Question 1 b: Who sits on SACRE?

The SACRE is a statutory body made up of four groups representing:

  • Christian denominations other than the Church of England, and other faith groups that appropriately reflect the principal religious traditions of the area
  • the Church of England
  • teachers – usually with reference to the various teacher associations
  • the Local Authority – usually local councillors

In addition, members may be co-opted to the SACRE to include people with particular expertise in the areas of religious education or to represent other interest groups. Co-opted members do not have voting rights.

Each group has one vote and so must come to a majority decision within the group in order to take the collective vote back to the whole SACRE. Each group of the SACRE must agree on the adoption of a new Locally Agreed Syllabus for RE.

Question 1 c: Who chairs the SACRE meetings?

It is often an elected member who chairs SACRE meetings. However, SACRE can appoint as Chair any full member of any of the four groups. Co-opted members cannot be elected as Chair of SACRE.

Question 1 d: How often must SACRE meet?

The SACRE meets at least three times per year, producing an annual report on its work. It may meet during the day or begin its meetings in the early evening to allow those who are working to attend.

Question 1 e: Are SACRE meetings open to the public? 

Yes. Meetings are open to the public but there may be some confidential matters which will be considered in private. During such situations members of the public will be asked to leave the meeting at this point. The circumstances under which SACRE can consider matters in private are controlled by law. As SACRE is a public meeting it can be filmed or recorded and photographs and social media can be used during meetings (apart for confidential matters). The use of these items must also be in accordance with the policy of the Local Authority. Although a public meeting, members of the public cannot speak or ask questions during meetings.

Question 1 f: How can I get hold of SACRE agendas and meetings?

Locally Authorities have a duty to inform the public of the business of SACRE. Agendas and minutes are usually therefore placed on the SACRE section of the Local Authority website. If you can’t find them contact the Local Authority who will help you. Please note: minutes of confidential items will not be made available. SACRE has a duty to produce an annual report. Again this should be on the Local Authority website.

Question 1 g: What is an Agreed Syllabus Conference?

An Agreed Syllabus Conference is the mechanism set out for the review of the Locally Agreed Syllabus for RE. SACRE members are part of the Agreed Syllabus Conference but others, with particular expertise in RE or related matters, can also be part of the Conference. On completion of a Syllabus review it must go to the full SACRE for agreement before it can become the basis for the planning and delivery of RE within the Local Authority. Each of the four groups on SACRE has one vote and must agree the Syllabus.

Question 1 h: Do all SACREs work independently?

Yes – there is a SACRE in each Local Authority. However, SACRE’s function, as a statutory body, is regulated nationally. There is a National Association of SACREs (NASACRE) which gives members a more country wide understanding of issues surrounding SACRE – http://www.nasacre.org.uk/ 

Question 1. i: What is SACRE’s responsibility towards Church schools?

In voluntary aided schools or their equivalent RE and worship are provided in line with the institution’s trust deeds/articles of government. Consequently, SACRE has no overseeing role in these types of schools. Worship is wholeheartedly Christian, and Anglican in chacter and the RE is the responsibility of the governing body. Chelmsford diocese provide an RE syllabus specifically to support these institutions in delivering a broad and balanced RE curriculum. Even in voluntary controlled schools, or their equivalent, who deliver RE in line with their locally agreed syllabus sufficient recognition should be given to diocesan policy and guidelines so that RE effectively supports and nurtures the Christian ethos and values of the school.  

Question 2 a: What’s involved in being a Church of England representative on SACRE?

A member of the Church of England group obviously represents the Church of England/Diocese on the SACRE. The Church of England has a long history of service in education and this representative role on the SACRE is part of that service. A Church of England group member is therefore serving the church in terms of its engagement with this statutory body. This means that he/she is engaging with the civic and social needs in the locality and having an influence on the education of children and young people.

A Church of England representative should:

Diagram

  • have an interest in education and the well-being of children and young people
  • commit to attending SACRE meetings and taking an active, participatory role in them as well as in any tasks which ensue from those meetings
  • commit to attending any training organised by the Local Authority or the Diocese for its SACRE members
  • be sensitive to the religious diversity of the area served by the Local Authority
  • normally be a communicant member of the Church of England and a regular attendee at worship
  • be committed to articulating the Church of England’s and the Diocese of Chelmsford’s perspective on various issues with regards to education
  • be sensitive to and committed to working alongside those of other faiths and none to support  inter-faith dialogue and understanding within the educational context
  • support the key role that RE has in the curriculum in schools and in the intellectual, spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of children and young people
  • support the key role that collective worship has in schools as an important way in which the school’s ethos and values are shared as well as providing regular opportunities for children and young people to address religious, spiritual and moral issues

Question 2 c: Who might make a suitable Church of England representative on SACRE?

A Church of England representative on SACRE should be committed to supporting Anglican perspectives and principles on educational matters. The Anglican tradition emphasises tradition, scripture and reason as the key to making decisions about moral, ethical and social matters. There is a long-standing commitment to an inclusive and rounded educational provision which supports the development of ‘the whole child’, academically, physically, spiritually, morally, socially and culturally. A Church of England representative should be committed to wanting high standards in educational practice especially with regards to religious education and collective worship in schools.

A Church of England representative on SACRE for example could be:

  • a serving teacher, primary or secondary, who brings relevant knowledge of the joys and stresses of teaching and/or leadership in schools today. Please note that there is a ‘teachers’ group’ on SACRE and that any teacher who is appointed to the Church of England group brings their teaching knowledge and expertise to the group in supporting Anglican perspectives on education
  • a recently retired teacher/school leader who can bring a wealth of experience to SACRE membership
  • a member of the clergy with a specially interest in and commitment to ministry in schools and service to the local community – including possibly serving on a school’s governing body
  • a curate in training, perhaps with a previous background in education, who is interested in the interface between parish ministry and civic/community relationships
  • a lay Church member with an interest in education, perhaps serving or having served as a school governor, and in being part of ensuring that Church of England perspectives are put forward in the civic arena.

The Diocesan Director of Education (DDE) must approve a nominee for the Church of England group on any of the SACREs within the Diocese. The DDE reserves the right to request a reference from a suitably qualified person, for example, from the nominee’s incumbent. Once approved the person’s name goes to the clerk to the SACRE who proceeds with membership from that point. 

Question 2 d: How long does a Church of England representative sit on SACRE?

Members of the Church of England group on SACRE are asked to commit to a service of a minimum of 3 years. At this point membership will be reviewed. There is no maximum time limit placed on membership of the Church of England group on SACRE providing that the representative is happy to continue and remains active and engaged with the SACRE.

Question 2 e: What training is provided for SACRE members?

Individual SACREs should provide their own periodic training for their SACRE members. The Diocese of Chelmsford provides a meeting/training session for all its Church of England representatives on SACRE from across the Diocese at least annually. This meeting takes place in the early evening (5p.m. – 7p.m. approx.) and light refreshments are provided. It is an important gathering and all Church of England representatives are strongly encouraged to attend.

In addition the National Association of SACREs (NASACRE) has an annual meeting which SACREs send representatives to. This annual event usually has some speakers who update on national policy and on recent educational initiatives as well as dealing specifically with SACRE issues.

Question 2 f: Is there any payment involved?

The role is a voluntary one and consequently members of the Church of England group on SACRE will receive no financial remuneration for their service.

Some common abbreviations a SACRE member needs to be aware of…

ASC

Agreed Syllabus Conference?

It is the mechanism whereby the Locally Agreed Syllabus for RE is reviewed. SACRE members alongside others with particular expertise in RE or related matters form the Conference which often functions as a working group or groups. When the Syllabus review is completed it must go to the SACRE for agreement before it can become the basis for the planning and delivery of RE within the Local Authority.

CW

Collective Worship

It is a legal requirement for there to be a daily act of collective worship provided in school for each pupil. It should provide the opportunity for pupils to worship God but be mindful of the range of faith and non-faith positions representative in the school. It is a bringing together of the school community for worship which should be inclusive of all. It is not the same as the corporate worship of the faith community.

LA

Local Authority

An administrative body for local government.

Local government is the collective term for local councils, also referred to as local authorities. The local authority is made up of councillors (members) who are voted for by the public in local elections and paid council staff (officers) who deliver services.

LAS

Locally Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education

Each Authority must produce a syllabus for religious education which takes account of Christianity and the other faiths represented locally/nationally. It needs to be reviewed at least on a five yearly basis – which the Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) is involved in. This syllabus is followed by community schools and by voluntary controlled (VC) schools (and their equivalents). An academy may choose to follow any Locally Agreed Syllabus (LAS). A voluntary aided (VA) school (and its equivalents) deliver religious education (RE) in accordance with the trust deed i.e. in line with its foundation. For voluntary aided (VA) Church of England schools this means following our Diocesan syllabus.

RE

Religious Education

Each pupil has an entitlement to RE (religious education) as part of a broad and balanced curriculum. RE should focus on Christianity and other world faiths. It should encourage children to ‘learn about’ and ‘learn from’ religion.

SACRE

Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education

Is a statutory body and meets at least 3 times a year. It is made up of four groups including a Church of England group. It advises the Locally Authority (LA) on matters pertaining to religious education (RE) and collective worship (CW).

SMSC development

Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development

A statutory responsibility of all schools to provide a broad and balanced curriculum which supports pupils’ personal as well as academic development.

Spiritual – not synonymous with religious but it can be – to do with the non-physical side of human beings and their development

Moral – the ability to know the difference between right and wrong and the will to act on it

Social – relationships with others – taking responsibility for actions within community

Cultural – understanding one’s own and others’ cultures.

SMSC is linked with values development.

VA and VC

Voluntary Aided and Voluntary Controlled schools

A voluntary aided Church of England school (or its equivalent if it is converted to an academy for example) provides religious education in line with its trust deeds and consequently follows our Diocesan syllabus. It provides a daily act of worship which reflects its Christian/Anglican foundation. Whilst explicitly Christian in nature its worship should be inclusive of the whole school community. The foundation governors are in the majority on the Governing Body.

A voluntary controlled Church of England school (or its equivalent if it has converted to an academy for example) provides religious education in line with the Locally Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education (LAS), it may supplement this with relevant material from our Diocesan syllabus. It provides a daily act of worship which reflects its Christian/Anglican foundation. Whilst explicitly Christian in nature its worship should be inclusive of the whole school community. The foundation governors are in the minority on the Governing Body.